As Sally and I listened to the breaking news of the terrorist attack in Manchester two weeks ago, I was filled with a feeling of helplessness. With ISIS on the prowl gathering recruits for lone-wolf attacks that display increasing depravity, what can anyone do? How do you fight an evil ideology and hidden cells of suicidal fanatics? Once again – as in the Great Depression, World Wars and the Cold War of the last century, we face a world beyond our control.
But the first Christians also faced an apparently hopeless world in the First Century of the Common Era: Palestine was a Roman colony, subjected to heavy taxation with brutal force. The Mediterranean region was populated with a variety of religious cults and competing philosophies like Epicureanism and Stoicism. The big names were the Caesars: Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero. The church was a tiny minority, repeatedly persecuted by rival creeds and public officials...Read full sermon text here (PDF)